Users face buy-in challenge with disaster recovery

Attendees at Storage Decisions disaster recovery event in London this week face challenges of funding and planning because of difficulties gaining business buy-in.

Users at this week's SearchStorage.co.uk Storage Decisions event in London identified gaining business buy-in as a major challenge to achieving effective disaster recovery in their organisation.

Jon Wood, IT director with South Staffs water, summed up the situation faced by many. He said, "From an IT department point of view it is still a lot of effort to get people to buy into the disaster recovery scheme and get them to understand it's not just about IT. That's the key challenge."

We need the business to say exactly what's important to them, not just 'everything'
Tim Pickett
IT security officerNew Star Asset Management
For some that lack of buy-in means both difficulties of funding as well as of procurement and technical planning. The IT director of a logistics company which could not be named said, "The challenge is to get business units to realise that disaster recovery is not this magical thing that when they click their fingers will just work."

He added, "We need buy-in to get funding. At the same time I face difficulties because the company is very hierarchical and I can't make local decisions affecting disaster recovery because a large element of the comms network is managed by higher tiers of the corporate structure."

The problem for others in not being able to gain full commitment from the business was a difficulty in accurately framing disaster recovery plans.

Tim Pickett, IT security officer with New Star Asset Management said, "We're trying to move from IT only being involved to getting the entire business on board. We just had a disaster recovery test this month and it was successful, but the problem was that it was entirely IT-driven. We need the business to say exactly what's important to them, not just 'everything'."

Clive Longbottom, service director with analyst organisation Quocirca, who presented to the audience at the event, said the key to effective communication with the business is to put things in terms the business understands.

He said, "You have to talk the language of the business. Going on about the technical aspects of disaster recovery will not work. You have to be able to say to them, 'if we don't have this capability we will lose X amount of money per hour'. You have to concentrate the mind of the business to gain buy-in."

The event also revealed organisations at different stages of disaster recovery maturity.

For some the processes are well established but there are still opportunities to fine tune their provision in technical terms.

New Star's Tim Pickett, said, "In terms of planning and testing and documentation, we're already there. As for the more advanced technologies such as data deduplication we're still at the stage of looking into them and seeing what they could do for us."

For Sam Khanjar, IT technical manager with the Royal Horticultural Society, the key question was to knit together a technical infrastructure that could give optimum response to any disaster situation.

He said, "The challenge for me is to find the right disaster recovery products to suit the solutions we already have in place. We have a SAN, but we need to find an archiving solution that works with that and is compatible in application terms. We're relying totally on tapes for archiving at the moment."

For Richard Westlake, computer manager at the school of crystallography at Birkbeck College, University of London, the difficulty is finding solutions to fit a data storage environment which produces large amounts of scientific data.

He said, "We produce very high volumes of data which is worked on for a while but then stored for long periods before being brought back out perhaps months or years later. So, my main challenge is to architect disaster recovery solutions that are durable and will not be obsolete in five years time. At the same time I work with constraints on budgeting that derive from not having a central budget but many different tranches of research funding."

Quocirca's Clive Longbottom said that disaster recovery planning comes almost naturally to those organisations where time sensitivity and high value intersect. For the rest it has to be more of a conscious process.

He said, "Service providers are the exemplars of disaster recovery, because the nature of their business means they have to get it as close to being right as they can. Financial services are also up there with the best because on the trading floor anything taking more than 250 milliseconds is too slow and business continuity and disaster recovery are the by-products of having a bloody good environment to begin with. In an environment where one deal you're doing could make the business millions it's in the very DNA of the company."

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